Women With Type 1 Diabetes Twice as Likely to Suffer Eating Disorders

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Women with type 1 diabetes face challenges when it comes to caring for themselves and their health. Also known as “juvenile diabetes”, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, the hormone needed for glucose regulation. It is estimated that over 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes, with over 40,000 people diagnosed each year in the United States [1].

Managing Type 1 Diabetes

The most effective way to manage type 1 diabetes is to carefully balance blood glucose with insulin dosages. Individuals with type 1 diabetes are taught insulin medication management and either need to inject insulin multiple times per day or have a continuous infusion through an insulin pump.

In addition to insulin medication, there is also emphasis on dietary changes and activity level to help effectively manage blood glucose throughout the day.

For some people who may also be susceptible to the development of an eating disorder, the hyperfocus on food, servings, calories, carbohydrates, grams of sugar, etc. can be triggering. Constantly looking at numbers throughout the day can quickly become overwhelming, especially for someone who may also be prone to an eating disorder.

Understanding the Eating Disorder ConnectionWoman on rock

A study completed by the American Diabetes Association found that girls and women with type 1 diabetes were at increased risk for developing eating disorders, which further complicate diabetes-related medical complications [2].

Disordered eating behaviors often observed among women with type 1 diabetes include dieting, fasting, purging, binge-eating, as well as manipulation of insulin medication, such as deliberately underdosing or omitting insulin all together. The direct consequences of manipulating insulin levels can be potentially fatal, putting women with type 1 diabetes and underlying eating disorders at risk.

The connection between this autoimmune disorder and eating disorders is overwhelming and should be heeded carefully by medical professionals in the field. Because women with type 1 diabetes are particularly vulnerable to developing disturbed eating behaviors, significant attention should be given to screening and treatment efforts for mental illnesses.

Clinical interventions for this population can be life-saving for those who may be struggling.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal’s passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her nutrition private practice.


[1]:  CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014

[2]:  Eating Disorders in Girls and Women With Type 1 Diabetes: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence, Onset, Remission, and Recurrence
Patricia A. Colton, Marion P. Olmsted, Denis Daneman, Jamie C. Farquhar, Harmonie Wong, StephanieMuskat, Gary M. Rodin
Diabetes Care Jul 2015, 38 (7) 1212-1217; DOI: 10.2337/dc14-2646

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 16, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com